120 HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION had come with him from York. In the school he had as pupils Charles and all the members of his family—wife, sons, daughters, and other kinsfolk—as well as the young nobles whom Charles had marked out for high position in State and Church. The studies which occupied this mixed company, we gather from his letters and from the textbooks he compiled, were much the same as those of the school at York. " Oh, that I could for ever sport with thee in Pierian verse," he writes to Charles on one occasion, " or scan the lofty constellations of the sky, or be studying the fair forms of numbers, or turn aside to the stupendous sayings of the ancient fathers, or treat of the sacred precepts of our eternal salvation."* The method of instruction varied. With the younger pupils, if we may judge from a dialogue written for Charles's son Pepin at the age of sixteen, it consisted in the memorizing of a series of highly artificial questions and answers, prepared by Alcuin himself. In the case of the older students, for whom the cateche- tical method would have been tedious and unpalatable, discussion in which Charles often took the lead played a large part. To all questions, except sometimes in matters of science, Alcuin, with mind steeped in the wisdom of predecessors like Bede and Isodore, had his answer ready. Alcuin also co-operated heartily with Charles in his plans for the improvement of education throughout the kingdom. In a weighty series of proclamations issued by the king during the years in which Alcuin was by his side, his hand is plainly discern- ible both in the scholarly statement of the king's views and in matters of detail. The first of these proclamations was sent to all the bishops and heads of monasteries some time about 787* After commenting on the prevailing illiteracy, which showed itself in the badly written letters that came from the monasteries, the king went on to urge the clergy to devote themselves to study for the sake of a right understanding of the Scriptures. " We exhort you,*' he said, "not only not to neglect the study of grammar, but to apply yourselves to it with perseverance and humility, that you may the more easily and readily be able to penetrate the mysteries of the Holy Scriptures. For since these contain figures of speech it is impossible to doubt that the reader will arrive far more readily at their spiritual meaning the better he is instructed in learning. Therefore, let there be chosen for * West, Alcuin, p. 46.